Dan McHale has lofty aspirations for his college basketball coaching career. So the Eastern Kentucky University head man has long envisioned the day when he would be battling regal Duke for high school prospects.
He did not think that moment would come this week, however, only months after his second season at EKU ended.
But it did.
After Jordan Goldwire, a three-star point guard from Norcross, Ga., made a recent official visit to Eastern, McHale’s gut feeling was the Colonels were going to beat out Mercer and Coastal Carolina to sign the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder who averaged 9.6 points and 4.9 assists this past season.
Then McHale got a text Monday from ESPN.com college basketball writer Jeff Borzello. Referring to the 247sports.com “Crystal Ball” in which recruiting analysts project which college that high school prospects will choose, Borzello sent a surprising update in reference to Goldwire.
“You are now 50-50 in the Crystal Ball with Duke,” Borzello wrote to McHale.
McHale texted Borzello back to ask a logical question.
“I said, “Are you sure you sent this to the right coach?’” McHale said. “I thought maybe his contacts were organized alphabetically and he had meant to send (the original text) to Greg McDermott, the Creighton coach. You know, ‘McDermott, McHale,’ are right there together.”
Borzello replied by sending a screen shot of Goldwire’s Crystal Ball page showing, sure enough, Duke and Eastern Kentucky were then tied at 50-50 in the projections.
Going on Twitter, McHale was soon looking at a picture from the Duke campus in Durham, N.C., that showed Goldwire and iconic Blue Devils Coach Mike Krzyzewski. “I found out on Twitter he was on an official visit to Duke,” McHale said.
In a recruiting story that shocked and amazed the college basketball world this week, Duke beat out EKU to secure the commitment of Goldwire.
McHale said the player called him to share the news.
“He said he thought he would be calling me to commit (to EKU),” McHale said. “He said Duke got involved sort of out of nowhere and it was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. I tried to take the high road. I told him I understood and wished him well.”
Though Grayson Allen is returning for his senior year in 2017-18, Duke’s backcourt is otherwise being decimated by departures. Senior Matt Jones is out of eligibility. Sophomore Luke Kennard is turning pro. Freshman Frank Jackson has his name in the NBA Draft, too, though unlike Kennard, he has not signed with an agent and could return.
Yet Krzyzewski, having followed John Calipari into the one-and-done revolving door, apparently feels the need for some “stability players” in his program, too.
“They said they needed another ball handler who would be able to run the second group,” Goldwire told ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman. “It’s a great opportunity for me.”
Though far from the bright lights of Cameron Indoor Stadium, EKU (12-19 last season; 27-35 in two years under McHale) would have been a prime situation for Goldwire, too.
Eastern returns star players in 6-9 junior-to-be Nick Mayo (18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) and dynamic backcourt scorer Asante Gist (15.9 ppg), a sophomore-to-be. EKU will add former Lafayette High School star Jackson Davis, a 6-8 junior forward who sat out last season after transferring from Butler.
McHale thought Goldwire, a pass-first point guard, “was the last piece for us, would be a great complement to our core three guys. We worked really hard to recruit him. Now, we’re still looking for that last piece.”
In the meantime, McHale’s coaching buddies have had some fun with the EKU head man this week.
Georgia Tech Coach Josh Pastner sent a tongue-in-cheek text telling McHale he had lost respect for the Eastern coach as a recruiter — since McHale and EKU couldn’t beat out Coach K and Duke head-to-head.
“We recruited (Goldwire) hard for months. Duke recruited him for days, hours,” McHale said. “But it was Duke. What are you going to do?”